Homeowners Associations in Cary: To Be In or Not to Be In?
As potential Cary homeowners -- or all potential homeowncers, really -- begin narrowing their searches based on their own factors (cost, location, school zone, etc.), there is one factor many do not seriously consider until the deal is done: homeowners associations (HOA).
An estimated one in five Americans -- Cary homeowners not disclosed -- live in a neighborhood under HOA bylaws, and around 75 percent of them are satisfied. On the flip side, that means one in every four people are dissatisfied with their HOA for one reason or another. As with any governing entity, there are pros and cons for its existence, but it would behoove homeowners to read over the fine print and consider several important factors, for better or worse.
Image is Everything: Most HOAs cover lawn care and community landscape maintenance, and some even handle trash service. Not only does this relieve homeowners from the chores of cutting lawns, raking leaves and fertilizing, it keeps the entire neighborhood looking consistently kempt. In other words, you won’t worry about your pristine lawn bordering “that neighbor” whose yard resembles a film set from Apocalypse Now.
Big Brother is Watching: While HOAs keep neighborhoods looking clean and tidy, there are volunteer watchdogs (i.e., your neighbors) just waiting for someone to cross the line. Is your uncle from Arizona coming for a week? Chances are he will not be able to park his RV in your driveway. Do your kids want a trampoline for summer? Sorry, that may not be allowed, neither will your above-ground pool. Plan on getting a dog? Be sure to read exactly what types, colors and heights of fences are allowed. This ties in closely to #1 above – the reason HOA neighborhoods look catalog-worthy are because they adhere to rules and bylaws that make them so.
Pay to Play: In most neighborhoods, HOA fees go towards community activity projects, such as playgrounds, barbecue pits, swimming pools, gazebos, tennis courts and walking trails. Larger communities might have sports fields, bike trails and dog parks. Responsible HOAs send out annual budget reports showing how your fees are being spent to support these benefits.
Playing Referee: While HOAs differ in structure – some have committees who meet regularly while others simply have a single chairman who handles issues on an individual basis – residents typically feel more comfortable having a referee to turn to rather than confront other residents personally. Have a problem with dog walkers leaving tracks in your front lawn? Getting annoyed with neighbors giving the swimming pool gate code to their friends and friends of their friends? With an HOA, you have a voice of authority on your side who can make a difference, sparing you from playing the neighborhood vigilante.
Pay Up or Ship Out: Some HOAs have the authority to put a lien on your house if you fall behind in fees, sometimes concluding in foreclosure. Yes, they take it that seriously. Even if you decide to not use the pool or choose to cut your own grass, you are responsible for the monthly fees. Failing to pay those could result in serious consequences for you and your home. Neglecting a $90 a month fee could cost you thousands in attorney fees.
Is buying a home in a Cary HOA neighborhood for you? It all depends on your personality and lifestyle. If you can afford the fees and like the convenience of neighborhood amenities, with the added bonus of not worrying if your neighbor’s shabby habits are bringing down your property value, then it just may be for you. However, if you are individualistic or foresee any lifestyle changes down the road, such needing a fence for a dog or having kids who might want a swing set in the backyard, then speak to a Cary real estate agent, HOA members and residents to get a real-world perspective. Just as you shop for homes, consider shopping around for HOAs. Many community websites are operated by their HOA and have their amenities and rules posted. Some HOAs may not be as strict as others, so you might find a perfect Cary neighborhood home where you can rebuild your ’64 Mustang in your driveway while your kids bike down the street to the pool.